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SUNY union workers can still opt-out of COVID-19 vaccine for now

An archway saying ELMIRA COLLEGE
Vaughn Golden
Elmira College is not requiring students nor staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Some universities are now requiring COVID-19 vaccines for employees, but within the SUNY system, there’s currently a patchwork of different policies governing employee vaccination.

About 500 SUNY employees in management positions will have to get the vaccine by October 29 or face termination, and the university system’s healthcare workers were required to get vaccinated as part of former-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order in August.

But Chancellor Jim Malatras said SUNY has not yet reached an agreement with employee unions on the possibility of a vaccine mandate.

“We don’t have the authority to mandate a vaccine for all of our other employees, because they’re represented by collective bargaining agreements,” Malatras said.

Workers who are represented by one of 14 collective bargaining contracts can still opt for weekly testing in lieu of a vaccine.

Unlike Cornell University, which recently announced a vaccine mandate for all employees, SUNY is not considered a federal contractor and cannot use an earlier executive order by President Biden to justify its own vaccine mandate.

Malatras has previously voiced support for a full vaccine mandate, but he said the state will have to step in if vaccination is going to be a condition of employment at SUNY.